Title: anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
Alternative Title: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai.
Encompasses: Complete Series
Published by: Nippon Ichi Software America
Genre: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life, Tragedy
Audio: Japanese Dub
Runtime: 255 Minutes
Cost: $55.99 as a Premium Edition release containing both DVD and Blu-ray releases.
Special Thanks: Nippon Ichi Software America for kindly providing me with a copy of this title for review
Jinta Yadomi and his group of childhood friends have become estranged after a tragic accident split them apart. Now in their high school years, a sudden surprise forces each of them to confront their guilt over what happened that day and come to terms with the ghosts of their past.
Ever since the noitaminA programming block began in 2005, it has resulted in a fair number of anime series which have earned themselves high scores when reviewed in this site – one in particular being Usagi Drop which after airing last year walked away with my top score in the AniBloggers Choice Anime Awards 2011 selection and when the (Australian edition) was reviewed earlier on this year it also walked away with an S rating. I was wondering how long it would take for a series to top Usagi Drop in my books…. and it turns out that a series which aired the season before may have equaled if not bested it.
anohana: The Flower We Saw that Day is a unique, memorable and most of all pretty emotional show released by NIS America in July this year. It goes from the entertaining nature of many recent anime releases and delivers a short 11-episode experience with interesting character development and several scenes which may leave you sobbing (or maybe that was just me *Shrugs*).
Several years prior to the events of the story in their childhood, the series six main characters were a close group of friends who often hung out with each other – going as far as to form their own group “The Super Peace Busters” and laying claim on a secret base. After the death of Meiko Honma (Menma), one of the members of the group due to an accident they had drifted apart and for the most part lost contact with each other. The de-facto leader of the group Jinta Yadomi (Jintan) had since become withdrawn from the world until one day when a girl resembling Menma appears before him wanting him to grant her wish. While at first believing her to be a fragment of his imagination, he soon understands she has come to him to have a wish fulfilled. Conveniently she does not remember what this wish is so through many events he uneasily reunites with the other former members of the group Naruko Anjo (Anaru), Tetsudo Hisakawa (Poppo), Atsumu Matsuyuki (Yukiatsu) and Chiriko Tsurumi (Tsuruko).
While you only see the characters original personaes through flashbacks, it is clear that each of the characters have been affected by Menma’s passing and dealt with it in many different ways after all these years. While Menma’s plot is the most important to the story, the episodes spend a significant amount of time rekindling the relationships between the characters, revealing their feelings towards each other in the past and present all while striving to achieve the goal which will allow Menma to pass on into heaven.
Comparing and contrasting the characters through flashbacks were well implemented and the progression of the storyline ensured that every episode was filled with interesting dialogue and more prevalently… emotion. Throughout the first ten episodes, there were several scenes I found that sent chills up my spine from characters reconciling to another tidbit of information revealed about Menma – but the eleventh and final episode was the kicker. There are very few episodes in anime that I have wept over in recent years, but the final episode of anohana successfully had me bawling my eyes out in response to it – from the actions of the characters to the events that occured (and a second time during a rewatch to boot!).
While they could have done with another couple of episodes to really develop the characters, the 11 that were set aside were used well to amply develop the charaters and set the overall plot. As with many noitaminA titles they generally come down to personal preference but to me it was a highlight and one of the more moving storylines I have seen in recent months.
As with many of their recent releases, NIS America have released this series in Blu-ray and for that I am glad. The studio A-1 Pictures did a brilliant job at providing a detailed world and strong character designs. The character designs are well detailed and the characters in particular can undergo several clothing changes an episode (The artbook even details all the ones for Jintan). But even more-so than designs, the characters emotions and personalities are expressed very well through their facial and anatomical animation. The setting of the series works well with the intended storyline, but even more so provides world both vivid and well detailed – and couples well with the character designs.
anohana comes attached with very strong opening and closing themes/animations. The opener “Aoi Shiori by Galileo Galilei” suits the series well and provides strong animation. The opening is shadowed by the ending sequence “Secret Base – Kimi ga Kureta Mono (10 years after Ver.) by Ai Kayano, Haruka Tomatsu, and Saori Hayami” whom also voice Menma, Anaru and Tsuruko in the show. The animation is pretty, incorporates the “Next Episode” preview well and for several episodes will start playing just before the end of the episode which helped build upon the emotion already presented to the viewer. While this is not anything new for an anime series, with this song in particular it is one of the most effective incidences I have seen of an ending theme being used during the episode. The remainder of the music in anohana is light and simple, but goes well with what is being delivered in a particular scene.
As with all other previous NIS America releases, anohana comes with a Japanese dub and English subtitles. While those of you who prefer English dubs may be disappointed, the Japanese dub is pretty good and features solid voice acting across the board.
As this is a Premium Edition release we should expect some goodies right? The entire contents of this set comes in a sturdy hardcover artbox which really requires you to purchase a couple more NIS America releases to look suitable on a shelf – but it features nice artwork on both sides and is of solid build quality. The hardcover artbook is titled “The Super Peace Buster Chronicle” and while it features many of the same goodies as their other premium releases, also includes several pages with images narrated by (assumingly) Menma, a two page feature on Jintan’s shirt collection and a translation of Secret Base – Kimi ga Kureta Mono (10 years after Ver.). The on-disc goodies include:
- Episode 01 Clean Ending (Which is unfortunately not the main one)
- Online Episode Previews for each episode spanning three and a half minutes
- Teasers & Commercials for the show
- Trailers for kimi ni todoke -From Me to You- Volume 3, Zakuro and Occult Academy
Generally the Premium Edition contents haven’t differed much since NIS America began releasing anime… but they are nice collectable items / features to have included on the disc.
anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day is one of my favourite anime releases from NIS America, and on top of that one of my favorite noitaminA series. The series may not be to every viewers tastes but to me it was an interesting and in some ways beautiful storyline filled with emotional and heartwarming scenes – as a group of friends reconcile to grant the wish of their friend while solving their own issues.
This is a series I could happily recommend checking out, and I hope that in the future NIS America contemplate licensing the movie set for release in 2013 that is set to retell the story from Menma’s point of view and hopefully shed some further light on plot not covered completely in this series.
Storyline / Character Development: A
Music/Voice Acting: A-
Extra Content: B
Personal Preference: A
Overall Score: S